There needs to a greater focus on women’s sport on TV

Paul Reynolds
football 300x225 There needs to a greater focus on women’s sport on TV


Rugby, cricket, football all have one. There’s even one now dedicated to Formula 1 for those testosterone-fuelled afternoons on the TV couch – I am of course talking about sports channels. So where do the 11 million women (and men – yes men do want to watch women’s sport) who want to engage in more sport point the remote control?

Look no further than the Women’s Sports Network (WSNet), a voluntary organisation which now publishes a weekly listing of women’s sport on TV – even then our researcher has a real job of finding women’s sport on TV. The last time women’s sport was shown on BBC was a month ago – live coverage of England’s football friendly against France. Other channels do better – Sky Sports, EuroSport and TRACE Sports all have limited (if somewhat random) programming of women’s sport. But in the main, it is European/US-based and does not focus on field sports or sports that are accessible to women and girls who may watch them and try in their communities.

At a recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Sport & Fitness, Clare Balding and Katherine Grainger called for a greater focus on women’s sport on TV and a greater focus on getting young women journalists involved early in women’s sport commentary. This lack of focus for women’s sport on TV applies across much of women’s sport.

Lack of promotion of events leads to poor attendance at matches. There were 2,535 at this year’s Women’s FA final of The Continental Cup in October, compare that with the German FA Cup with regular attendances of 20,000 and up to 70,000 for major events. Lack of awareness of  sports heroine role models, that the Olympics showed us do exist, and poor pay for the majority of elite sports women all compound the problem and lead to the lack of sponsorship, commercial contracts for sports women and inevitably, a lack of television coverage.

But do we really know what we want watch? The WSNet, along with TRACE Sports & British Gymnastics are about to embark on research on what women’s sport do we want on TV? Nobody has really asked! Is it the same as men’s sport – matches, goal replays, analysis and talking heads? Or do we want fitness, health, social, life/training balance, injury issues etc? We just don’t know what or even when we want to watch women’s sports on TV. Until women’s sport gets some market segmentation and analysis it will continue to fail to get interest from commercial channels, sponsors or advertisers’ investment.

So how do we break this vicious circle? Without commercial investment it seems impossible for women’s sports TV to break through the ‘grass ceiling’. Or does it? Technology has changed the balance of power across the Middle East – Twitter and BBM have undermined the old power-brokers. Could it be the same for women’s sports on TV?

I suppose that depends what you mean by TV – TVs now come HD ready, Smart and web-enabled. Mobile phones can still be used to make phone calls – but more and more they are used to stream live or on-demand footage and YouTube persists in trying to create ‘communities’ around its sports channels. While advertisers now modify their advertising to suit the channel profile because digital distribution allows them to. And smaller channels don’t just operate on SKY now – they multiplex on the internet – or even just run as an internet channel.

National governing bodies like the RFU and British Gymnastics are determined to develop their own digital channels for women’s sport. This weekend British Gymnastics will be streaming the British Acrobatic Gymnastics Tournament and the RFU will be streaming the England vs. The Black Ferns (NZ) match live on Friday 23 November. Credit where credit is due – Sky Sports will cover the final series match on December 1st from Twickenham.

Along with UK Sport, national governing bodies are the guardians of women’s competitive sports – the technology, outside broadcast, editing, programming and distribution is now a fraction of the cost it was even five years ago. The way to get more sport on TV? Well, for the sports governing bodies to be proud of their women’s events and make them exciting. In the same way that marketeers would treat any product – they need to be bold and use technology to drive interest on-screen and raise the profile, confidence in, and access to the enjoyment of women’s sport.

Finally, will digital technologies limit the growth and interest of spectators at live matches? That depends on how clever we are with match rights – a good retailer builds an online strategy which drives customers to their stores and maintains them online.  A similar strategic approach to women’s sports on TV is needed. We need to use technology to engage customers and then to drive them to either watch or take part in matches, events, games – or just be confident to do a bit of fitness in the community!

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  • harrymeadows

    Having given women’s international football a fair go over the last decade, my honest opinion is that it is dull and far below the average standard of the Championship – regardless of some of the TV commentators’ claims.

    It may well be true to say that the only way to improve it is via investment, and for that it needs exposure, and for that a dedicated TV channel would be good.

    But it is hard to know who, precisely, would be watching that channel.

    We don’t watch men’s sports *because* they are men, we watch them because they are bloody excellent at it.

    Many people are happy to watch and support a local league team, despite the fact that they may lack a certain polish, but is there a mass market for a women’s sports channel?

    I don’t want to p1ss on anyone’s chips, but I wouldn’t watch it unless it contained sports where women truly truly excel.

    Perhaps we need some new sports, rather than women taking up sports that have been developed by and for men?

  • natgrenadine

    Being a fan of women’s soccer, I agree that the game is exciting and the style of play is exciting and entertaining. But as a capitalist, I detest the constant drivel that both sexes must be given equal emphasis in sports. It doesn’t really matter that my opinion is that the women’s game is as exciting as the men’s–what matters is if masses of consumers also agree. (Go Wambach, Morgan!)

  • natgrenadine

    I agree. This philosophy should also apply to the work force–ability alone rather than race, gender, creed, etc.

  • whosaysso

    Never mind women’s sports – it’s high time all sport was mixed – with penalties strongly enforced for any sexual bullying on the pitch or off it. Segregating sport puts brilliant girl footballers out of the game at age 11, makes being macho more important that being good at the skill of playing, and turns female sport into voyeurism rather than an appreciation of skill. Keep sport mixed in schools, and let boys and girls find team players of a similarly matched ability to play with. The idea that masculine status requires that men’s sport must be better than women’s has had its day. More men will be stronger and fitter than more women, but some women will be brilliant, given the opportunity to play at the level they deserve.

  • mradclyffe

    I refer you to my original comment.

  • mradclyffe

    Thank you :)

  • Jamie Rodruiges


  • Jamie Rodruiges

    Ill bet a pound to a piece of sh!!e,that nobody watches them,,,,who in there right mind would pay to watch a bunch of women wannabes running around trying to be like men,,,ha ha ha ha

  • Jamie Rodruiges


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